The practice of building mandalas took on great importance to the Buddhism practiced in kingdom of Shrivijaya (7th-12th century). Much of the Buddhist art from Java excavated over the last sixty years consists of small bronzes rarely exceed four or five inches in height. The size of these figures and their iconography suggest that they were placed in the outer rings of three-dimensional mandalas, where they functioned as attendants and guardians for the more important deities at the center. The bronze Maitreya shown here is spectacular in its size of almost ten inches, and probably occupied the near-center position in the mandala.
The importance and rarity of this striking Maitreya are confirmed by the fact that it was completely gilded; traces of gold are found even inside the casting where it would never be seen. This is a superb work made with scrupulous attention to detail, notably the elaborate jewelry adorning the bodhisattva's elongated body and the large headdress with its stupa emblem rising in plaited rows and ornamented with plant forms. Identical foliate shapes are seen on the armbands, necklace and girdle, and rising from water on the stupa-base. Perhaps most remarkable is the artistry realized in the dharmachakra mudra, where each finger is finely characterized and most exquisitely sculpted.
Time has graced this work with a rich patina that collects in washes of seafoam green malachite. A veil of gold remains sparkling on this statue of the Future Buddha, and it continues to convey a profound presence.